Frequently Asked Questions

What regular cargo activity is occurring at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal?

ABC Recycling is exporting recycled metal every 6 to 8 weeks on bulk carrier vessels like the 560-foot long KAITI HILL. Each ship is loaded with approximately 60 million pounds of metal for export to global markets. 

The Shipping Terminal also exports rocks to the mouth of the Columbia River by barge seasonally during the spring and summer months. Basalt rocks, ranging in size from 8 tons to 35 tons, are sourced from Whatcom and Skagit County quarries, driven on trucks to the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, loaded onto barges and then barged to the mouth of the Columbia River to repair the structural integrity of the south jetty. For more information about the south jetty repair project, visit this link

How can I learn more about when barges or ships are scheduled to arrive and depart from the Shipping Terminal?

Community members can view the berth schedules by visiting this link and sign up to get email or text notifications when the schedule is updated.

How many jobs have been created by the return of regular cargo activity to the Bellingham Shipping Terminal?

Approximately forty people are involved with loading each cargo ship including employees of ABC Recycling, Pacific Terminal Services Company, ILWU Local 7, Transmarine Navigation and Port staff.  ILWU Local 7 has registered 8 new longshore workers bringing the total to 18. The Bellingham Shipping Terminal has the capacity to create more family-wage jobs and Port staff continue to meet with prospective customers interested in a congestion free alternative to the docks and terminals north and south of Bellingham. 

Is shipping recycled metal consistent with the waterfront Master Plan?

The Port and City of Bellingham worked closely with the community for many years to develop a Master Plan for the Waterfront District which balances jobs, housing, retail development and services. The Waterfront District is divided into five areas, each with a different redevelopment character. For the Shipping Terminal Area, the Master Plan calls for maintaining the existing deep-water port for shipping, port and industrial related opportunities. While much of Georgia-Pacific’s former heavy industrial Pulp, Paper and Chemical Plant is being redeveloped into parks, residential and commercial uses, maintaining the industrial character and job-creating potential of the working waterfront are important community values and consistent with the long-term Master Plan for Bellingham’s downtown waterfront. The Waterfront District Master Plan was last updated in 2019. 

Do shipping and industrial uses fit with parks, residences and other mixed uses?

The Port and City are working hard to develop a diverse and a vibrant, mixed-use waterfront where marine trades are located near cool public spaces; where affordable housing is located next to higher priced condominiums; and where teenagers working at restaurants and retail shops can one day earn a living-wage at the Shipping Terminal. This is the vision our community articulated in the Waterfront District Master Plan and what the Port is creating on Bellingham’s downtown waterfront.  

Have you heard any complaints about the return of cargo activity?

Some community members have expressed concerns about noise, air quality, stormwater and other impacts. In response, the Port hosted a Southside Community Meeting and is in regular contact with representatives from nearby neighborhoods. While there are significantly less environmental impacts than when downtown Bellingham was dominated by Georgia-Pacific’s Pulp, Paper and Chemical Plant and other heavy industrial uses, the Port is committed to being a good neighbor and making operational adjustments when feasible to minimize any impacts from the Shipping Terminal. 

What operational adjustments have you made at the Shipping Terminal to reduce impacts?

All activities at the Shipping Terminal must comply with local, state and federal regulations. To address concerns about noise, the Port worked with ABC to switch to quieter backup alarms on heavy equipment and create a sound barrier in the ship loading area by stacking shipping containers. To reduce impacts to air quality, ABC is implementing atomizing dust suppression systems. The Port is monitoring noise and air quality and will work with ABC Recycling as needed on mitigation measures to further minimize impacts. The Port understands new sources of noise and other impacts related to the movement of cargo can be frustrating as we rebuild the waterfront economy, but hope community members can appreciate the importance of family-wage jobs to Whatcom County residents.

Why are ships loaded late at night?

ILWU local 7 longshore workers are responsible for loading and unloading ships at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal. The financial model of the shipping industry requires ships spend a minimum amount of time at the docks with the customers charged significant financial penalties if ships are not loaded within the allotted amount of time. 

What about stormwater? Do you have the right stormwater permits and is any harmful runoff entering Bellingham Bay?

ABC Recycling conducts operations on two areas of the downtown waterfront, the Log Pond and the Shipping Terminal. At the Shipping Terminal, the Port holds an Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) for Marine Cargo Handling which provides coverage for a wide variety of potential cargos including the loading and transport of recycled metal. For the Log Pond, the Port holds an Aerated Stabilization Basin Individual Permit for stormwater management which has been used to cover industrial operations in the Log Pond and surrounding areas since the Port acquired the Georgia Pacific site. All stormwater is collected from the Log Pond and pumped into the Aerated Stabilization Basin containment area from which no water is released into Bellingham Bay. During a site visit, the Department of Ecology requested ABC Recycling obtain their own Industrial Stormwater General Permit to facilitate administrative tracking. ABC is working with Ecology to secure this permit. Over the long-term, the Aerated Stabilization Basin will not be available for stormwater management when the Port begins its next major cleanup project (Phase 2 of the Whatcom Waterway Cleanup project). 

What grants have you secured for terminal improvements?

In Fall 2020, the Port secured a $6.85 million U.S. Department of Transportation Port Infrastructure Development Program Grant to further rehabilitate the Shipping Terminal wharf and restore working waterfront jobs. The Bellingham Shipping Terminal Wharf Rehabilitation project is finishing the design and permitting phase with construction anticipated to begin in Fall 2023 with completion in mid-2024. This project includes the replacement of a deteriorated structural component at the Central Terminal, dock repairs at the South Terminal, upland repairs (including utility work), and maintenance dredging of underwater high spots for safe vessel access to the berths.

What other improvements are planned for the Bellingham Shipping Terminal?

The Port continues to make significant investments to modernize the terminal. Beginning in 2023, the Port will start construction on a terminal electrification project to upgrade power service and improve safety by moving overhead power lines underground to allow large equipment to fully utilize the limited acreage at the Shipping Terminal. This project will give shipping customers the ability to connect to clean electric power which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for maritime workers and community members. The Port expects to complete the terminal electrification project by the end of 2024. The Port is also pursuing grant opportunities to reestablish rail access to the terminal. Moving freight by train instead of trucks will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decrease highway congestion.